If you ask me, Callaway Golf has been waiting for Chip Brewer since July 5, 2001. That’s the day Ely Callaway died of pancreatic cancer.
It has taken almost 11 years, but the right guy finally has the job of president and CEO of Callaway Golf. It’s not that Callaway executives of the past decade have been unqualified. To the contrary, some of them have been brilliant.
But they haven’t been golf guys in the Ely Callaway sense of the word. They haven’t been infectiously enthusiastic in an outgoing, extroverted, passionate, aggressive, golf-is-the-center-of-the-universe manner.
Ely Callaway was one of a kind, and I’ve told this story before.
It was 1999. I was in Beaverton, Ore., gathering information about Nike Golf. The Tiger Slam was one year away.
My phone rang. It was Ely Callaway. He wanted to talk about my column that had appeared in the most recent print edition of Golfweek.
“Go ahead, Ely,” I said. “I’ve got plenty of time.”
He replied, “Good, because I want you to come down here (to Callaway headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif.). I want to talk face-to-face.”
Callaway then dropped a bomb: He wanted to send the Callaway Golf Learjet to pick me up.
And so it unfolded. I finished at Nike in the early afternoon, then boarded the waiting Learjet. Ely met me in Carlsbad, where we talked, ate an early dinner, and ended the day with frozen yogurt (he loved frozen yogurt).
The Learjet flew me back to Oregon that evening.
Was this a frivolous gesture on his part? I don’t think so. It was extravagant, to be sure, but he got his point across — golf guys do whatever it takes to share their love for the game. In this case, Ely wanted to talk about the science behind some of the Callaway clubs.
I believe this little adventure went far beyond business. Sure, he was trying to impress a golf writer, but he also seemed very genuine in his desire to outline the Callaway scientific platform. It turned into an animated conversation between two golf guys.
Fast forward a few years. I traveled to Dallas, Texas, to play golf with Chip Brewer, president and CEO of Adams Golf. We went straight to the back tees of the Pete Dye course at Stonebridge Ranch (in nearby McKinney).
“Too much golf course for me,” I said. “I’ve moving up one set of tees.”
Brewer did not move up. He is a highly skilled golfer who always comes to play, whether his playing partner is Bob Bogey or Billy Birdie. There is a certain bravado about him, which may come from his upbringing.
His father, O. Gordon Brewer, is the longtime president of Pine Valley (N.J.) Golf Club and a two-time USGA Senior Amateur champion. The Brewer patriarch also is a former member of the USGA Executive Committee who served as chairman of the Implements & Ball Committee (now called the Equipment Standards Committee).
Golf equipment runs deep in this family. So do USGA connections. What struck me that day at Stonebridge Ranch was Brewer’s honesty about his job. He praised some of the Adams clubs, he trashed others. He frequently asked my opinion. Imagine that.
“We’re going to get them all as good as they can be,” he said. “There will be a bunch of Tour players using these clubs.”
He was right. In 2011, Adams won the yearlong PGA Tour equipment count in the hybrid category.
Chip Brewer was the best choice for Callaway Golf. The company got its man. Not that Brewer is the reincarnation of Ely Callaway, but he is close.